Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Planning Authority
Argyll And Bute
NS 30043 83814
230043, 683814


Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1902-1904, the Hill House is an iconic example of a Scottish Art Nouveau modern house with a fine bespoke interior conceived in its entirety by Mackintosh and Margaret Madonald Mackintosh. This two-storey and attic, asymmetrical L-plan house is in a modern idiom, derived from Scottish Baronial and vernacular prototypes. It is an artistic house designed for the avant-garde publisher, Walter W Blackie (1860-1953) and it is set in artistically arranged gardens on high ground in a villa suburb above Helensburgh and overlooking the Clyde Estuary beyond.

It is built in rubble sandstone and has cement harl with some cream sandstone ashlar dressings. The roof has grey slates and some overhanging eaves with exposed rafter ends. The windows are a variety of sizes and types, including some casement windows with square lead-pane glazing as well as timber small-pane sash and case windows. The tall chimney stacks predominantly rise from the wallhead and one is at an angle. There are cast iron rainwater goods.

The house is oriented east to west with the entrance in the west gable elevation. The entrance has a cream sandstone surround and above this is a canted window. To the left of the door is a tall battered wallhead chimney stack. To the right of the entrance bay is a recessed gable with two narrow ground floor windows with ashlar margins and a small window in the gablehead with a narrow wallhead chimney stack to the left.

The south (garden) elevation comprises a two-storey wing, an advanced two-bay gable and the gable of the service wing to the far right and recessed. In the re-entrant angle between the gable and service wing is a round stair tower with a candle-snuffer roof. The two-storey wing has irregular window openings. To the outer left is a large and recessed ground floor window with a shallow curved bay window above. The small square window opening is flanked by plain square panels. There is an advanced squared and flat-roofed bay ground floor window to the right with five-lights in the south side, a window in the left return and a doorway in the right return.

The advanced gable has a pair of ground floor windows and an off-centre to right first floor window. There is a wallhead chimney stack and a small recessed attic window in a half-gable to the left of the chimney. An attic window in the right return has an ashlar stylised pediment.

The east elevation of the service wing has a shallow bowed lead-pane tripartite window at the first floor to the left and an advanced squared bay breaking the eaves to the outer right with a canted attic window. The west elevation of the service wing has attic windows with shaped gabled dormerheads There is a single storey L-plan range of outhouses adjoining to the east of the service wing.

The north elevation has an advanced and curved stair block to the right with tall and narrow windows and a doorway in the left return.

Most of the original and outstanding Glasgow Style interior decoration survives with, chimneypieces, stencilling, furniture and fittings as designed by Mackintosh or Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. There is a large spacious lounge/hall with a timber dog-leg stair that has a balustrade of slats creating a timber screen. The library to the southwest corner is lined with bookshelves and cupboards of dark oak. The drawing room to the south has a distinctive stencil decoration, a large bay window with a seat, an alcove for a grand piano and a chimneypiece with a mosaic surround and gesso panel by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. In the southeast corner is a timber panelled dining-room with dark stained wood. Original bathroom fittings survive and the first floor bedrooms have stencil decoration, original fixtures, fittings and furniture. The L-shaped principal bedroom has a sitting area with fireplace and integral seating and the bespoke bed with decorated and canopied bed head is in a recess with a lower barrel vaulted ceiling.

To the northwest of the main house is a U-plan range of outbuildings including a former gardeners cottage to the south and stable to the east with a garage to north. This range is harled has a grey slate roof, harled stacks and lead-pane glazing. The boundary wall to Upper Colquhoun Street is interrupted by two-leaf boarded entrance gates to the courtyard and a garage to the left with two-leaf doors. The wall to the right of the courtyard gateway is pierced by two small windows with single shutters. There is a taller gabled bay to the outer right with a deep doorway off-centre to the right.

There is a single-storey, cylindrical tool shed with a conical-roof at the east end of the garden terrace (to the southeast corner of the house). The doorway has a large stone lintel.

The boundary walls to Upper Colquhoun Street and Kennedy Drive are harled and have a flat ashlar coping. The taller sections of the wall have horseshoe shaped openings and ashlar surround. Upper Colquhoun Street has a pair of entrances, each with square-plan piers with a geometric motif and decorative iron gates. The gateway onto Kennedy Drive is above a flight of steps and has curved flanking walls.

Statement of Special Interest

The Hill House is the most complete and finest example of domestic architecture by the internationally celebrated architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is an austere asymmetrical L-plan, with elements inspired by the 17th century Scottish tower house and Scottish vernacular. Mackintosh wanted a certain design aesthetic of simple, angular details. The plain harled elevations are interrupted only by window openings and a slate roof. In contrast with the austere exterior is the outstanding Glasgow Style interior scheme. Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, designed much of the interior fixtures and fittings, including the doors, mantelpieces and furniture, and each room is carefully composed and distinctive. Mackintosh also designed the outbuildings and boundary walls, repeating motifs from the house to create a unified aesthetic.

Mackintosh designed the house in 1902 for Walter Blackie, a Glasgow publisher, who wished to relocate closer to Glasgow, but live outside the city. Prior to proceeding with the design, Mackintosh insisted upon staying with Blackie to understand the family's needs, and this can only have added to the success of the planning of the house. Mackintosh worked on the plans first and after resolving the practical requirements of the house the internal design followed. Once this was agreed he designed the elevations.

The Blackies moved into the house in March 1904 and Blackie described the property as: "The house shall stand as an example of the genius of Mackintosh".

The house is constructed in red sandstone with the wallheads in brick, undoubtedly to achieve the desired profile with minimal work. A condition of the Luss estates feu specified the property be built in stone, but the client wanted the house to have grey harled walls. Since its completion in 1904 the Hill House has had continual problems with water ingress, largely due to the lack of appropriate weathering details at the walls and window cills and the reliance on the cement harl.

The house was lived in by the Blackie family until Walter Blackie's death in 1953, when it was sold to Mr Campbell Lawson. In 1972 it was bought by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland with the the National Trust for Scotland taking ownership in 1982. Since this date it has been open to the public as a museum.

The Hill House is constructed on a sloping site above the burgh of Helensburgh. Established in 1776 by Sir John Colquhoun, Helensburgh was a community of bonnet makers, linen and woollen weavers. It attained burgh status in 1802 and grew rapidly in the 19th century as Glasgow industrialists sought country properties, assisted by the arrival of the railway in 1858. Such clients favoured houses on the hill, which was originally agricultural land and above the enclosed grid plan of tenements and terraces to maximise views of the Clyde (views which have been largely maintained to this day). These houses reflected the social status of their owners. Their construction also coincided with the end of the great building boom of villas in Scotland.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was born in Glasgow and is regarded internationally as one of the leading architects and designers of the 20th century. He became known as a pioneer of Modernism, although his architecture took much inspiration from Scottish Baronial and Scottish and English vernacular architectural forms and their reinterpretation. The synthethis of modern and traditional forms led to a disctintive form of Scottish arts and crafts design, known as the Glasgow Style. The Glasgow Style, developed in partnership with contemporaries Herbert McNair, and sisters Francis and Margaret Macdonald, Margaret becoming his wife in 1900, and is now synonymous with Mackintosh and the city of Glasgow.

His work is wide-ranging and includes public, educational and religious buildings to private houses, interior decorative schemes and sculptures. He is associated with over 150 design projects, ranging from principal designer to projects by the practice of John Honeyman & Keppie (from 1901 Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh). The most important work during this partnership was the Glasgow School of Art built in two phases from 1897 and culminating in the outstaning library of 1907. Hill House is the largest and finest of his domestic buildings and includes modern pirinciples of the German concept of 'Gesamtkunstwerk' meaning 'synthesis of the arts' which Mackintosh applied completely to all his work from the exteriors to the interior design and furniture and fittings. Another of Mackintosh's notable domestic commissions is Windyhill (1900-1902) in Kilmacolm (see separate listing, LB12450), where many of the distinctive design features and the use of roughcast were a model for the Hill House.

The Mackintoshes left Glasgow in 1914, setting up a practice in London the following year. Later they moved to France from which time until his death Charles Rennie Mackintosh's artistic output turned mainly to textile design and watercolour painting.

Listed building record revised in 2018.



Canmore: CANMORE 42505.


Dumbarton District Library. Dean of Guild Drawings for Helensburgh (Box 1902-1904).

The National Trust for Scotland. Hill House WBA/BD/HIH and HIH\CB\MISC. Greenbank House, Glasgow.

Printed Sources

Academy Architecture (1902) 'Hill House'. pp.73-75.

Blackie W.W. (1968) "Memories of CRM" reprinted in Scottish Art Review No. 4 vol 11 p.7.

Cooper, J. (editor) (1984) Mackintosh architecture : the complete buildings and selected projects. London: Academy.

Davison, L. & Lowrey, J. (1992) 'Introduction' in The Journal of the Architectural

Heritage Society of Scotland: Architectural Heritage III: The Age of Mackintosh.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp 1-7.

Howarth, T. (1977) Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement.

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. pp.98-107.

McKean C. & Rogerson R. (c.1985) The Hill House, Helensburgh : Charles

Rennie Mackintosh, The National Trust for Scotland.

McKean J. (1996) "The Hill House" in Kaplan, W. (ed) (1996) Charles Rennie Mackintosh, New York: Abbeville Press. pp.175-199.

Macaulay, J. (1994) Hill House. Phaidon Press Ltd.

Neat, T. & McDermott, G. (2002) Closing The Circle Thomas Howarth, Mackintosh and the Modern Movement. Aberdour: Inyx publishing.

Robertson, P. (editor) (1990) Mackintosh: The Architectural Papers. Wendlebury: White Cockade Publishing.

Walker, F. A. (2000) The Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute. London: Penguin. p.296

Wright, A. P. K (2012). The Hill House, Helensburgh: Evaluation of Condition and Significance.

Online Sources

Mackintosh Architecture. M207 The Hill House, Helensburgh at (accessed 29/05/2018).

The National Trust for Scotland. The Hill House at (accessed 29/05/2018).

About Listed Buildings

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Hill House, entrance and rear elevations, looking southeast, during daytime with plants in front of the building
Hill House, garden (south) elevation), looking northeast, with a planted terrace in  front of the building and the conical roofed toolshed to the right

Printed: 22/04/2024 01:44